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Drug Withdrawn - Vioxx, A Perspective After National Arthritis Meeting

Vioxx (rofecoxib), a drug that has been used to quiet inflammation of arthritis and relieve pain, was withdrawn from the market by its maker, Merck, on September 30, 2004. The reason for the withdrawal was the occurrence of side effects noted in a study that Merck was conducting to see if Vioxx could prevent polyps of the colon and rectum. During this trial, it was noted that there was an increased risk for heart attack and stroke in patients continuing to take Vioxx longer than 18 months.

Below, the Medical Editor-in-Chief of, an arthritis specialist, gives a perspective on the withdrawal of Vioxx after attending the national arthritis meeting of the American College of Rheumatology October 16-21, 2004.

Dr. Shiel's Perspective: Vioxx is no longer available for use and those taking it should contact their physicians to consider alternative treatment. The risk of heart attack or stroke was small, but real. It is of note that there was no increased risk of stroke in patients taking Vioxx less than 18 months in the study. There has been no indication that any long term damage occurs once the drug is discontinued.